BHA and Young Humanists move to protect non-religious parents with guide on religion in schools

The guide is being published in the week of primary national offer day.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) and Young Humanists have published today a comprehensive guide for non-religious parents and young people, offering support and advice on how to navigate an education system increasingly subject to undue religious influence. The guide comes in the week that parents all over England discovered at which primary school their children have been offered a place for the next school year.

Religion in schools: a guide for non-religious parents and young people in England and Wales is free to download from the BHA’s website and aims to ensure that non-religious people are fully aware of their rights and the law as it relates to ‘faith’ schools and religion in schools more generally. The advice covers a range of areas, including Religious Education, Collective Worship, school admissions, and the teaching of Science, all of which can pose particular problems for non-religious families.  

Currently, a third of state schools in England and Wales are ‘faith’ schools, meaning non-religious parents in England and Wales have access to around 7,000 fewer appropriate schools, or nearly two million fewer places, than their religious counterparts. Depending on their type, these schools can religiously discriminate in their admission arrangements, employment policies, and delivery of the curriculum, all of which has a deleterious effect on the rights of non-religious parents. What is more, the law still requires schools without a religious character to hold daily acts of Christian worship, meaning that even parents who have specifically chosen to avoid ‘faith’ schools cannot completely escape religious proselytising.

Commenting on the publication of the new guide, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘Despite the fact that as a society we are now much more diverse, and much more non-religious, the school system has only become more and more permissive to religious influence in recent years. This guide builds on the decades of support that the BHA has provided to parents and young people caught in the crossfire of this long-standing tension between religion and education, and will hopefully equip them to challenge unlawful and discriminatory practice wherever they find it.’

Lauren Nicholas, coordinator of the BHA’s 18-35s section Young Humanists, added, ‘Well over two-thirds of young people in Britain state that they do not belong to any religion, and nearly half of the population as a whole now say they are non-religious. And yet, whether it’s being denied access to your local school, being forced to pray to a god you don’t believe in, or being taught a narrow and doctrinaire religious education curriculum, non-religious people have never encountered a more hostile education system than the one they face now. We are a maligned majority. Ultimately we must repeal the legal freedoms allowing religion to run amok in our schools, but until then this guide will do a great deal to protect the rights of parents.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact BHA Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Read the ‘Guide for non-religious parents and young people’: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017-04-19-BHA-guide-for-non-religious-parents.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s work on:

Young Humanists is the 18-35s section of the BHA. Two thirds of Britons between the ages of 18 and 35 are non-religious, according to surveys, and most will share humanist values even if that’s not a term they’ve come across. Young Humanists exists to offer a space for non-religious people aged 18-35 to meet, socialise, debate and support each other.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.